Eskimos no more: Edmonton’s CFL team to change its name

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EDMONTON —
Edmonton’s Canadian Football League team announced on Tuesday it’s discontinuing the use of Eskimos as its team name. 

“Recent findings demonstrate that views regarding the team name are shifting. While many fans are deeply committed to keeping the name, others are increasingly uncomfortable with the moniker, ” reads a statement from the team.

“We feel it is important to make this change in response to the findings of our recent engagement and research. Going forward, we want the focus to be on the work we do in the community and our team’s excellence on the field as the CFL’s most successful franchise,” said the chair of the team’s board of directors Janice Agrios

Team president Chris Presson called the prospect of a new name “a great opportunity” but added the team has no timeline yet for a new moniker.. 

“We want to make sure we develop the proper process and right now we don’t have that in place.” 

The team says it’s undertaking “a comprehensive engagement process” on a new name that will include input from season seat holders, casual ticket purchasers and partners.

Until a new name is decided on, the team says it will use the names EE Football Team and Edmonton Football Team. 

Presson said the team is yet to determine what uniforms the team would wear should the CFL begin a shortened season in the coming weeks. 

SPONSOR BACKLASH

Early in July, CTV News began contacting each of the team’s 12 premier sponsors. 

On July 7, CTV News was first to report that Belairdirect, a longtime sponsor of the 50/50 draw at Commonwealth Stadium, had told the team it would end its relationship with the club if the name wasn’t changed. 

“At Belairdirect one of our core values is respect, which is founded on seeing diversity as a strength, being inclusive and collaborative,” reads a statement from the national home and auto insurance company. 

“In order for us to move forward and continue on with our partnership with the Edmonton Eskimos, we will need to see concrete action in the near future including a name change. We have shared our position with the team.”

Last week, online bookmaker SportsInteraction, a Quebec-based online sportsbook operated by the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake, issued a similar statement.

“Sports Interaction will be asking the Edmonton Eskimos to change its name so that we can continue supporting the club and its fans,” spokesman Ryan Stetson wrote in an email to CTV News. 

Jiffy Lube told the Canadian Press it supports the further engagement.

“We look forward to hearing feedback from their ongoing discussions,” spokeswoman Kelly McClung said. 

 A spokesman for TFB & Associates, the Canadian brand owners of lozenge manufacturer Fisherman’s Friend, said the issue is “something we have been following closely.”

“We support Edmonton’s CFL team’s re-engagement in discussions with the Inuit communities and are looking forward to the timely and respectful progression of those conversations along with a positive outcome for all.”

Although it is listed as a premier sponsor, Boston Pizza said its relationship with the team came to an end in May due to a shift in corporate marketing strategy away from legacy sponsorships of pro sports teams. 

The Brick, Molson Coors, Discount Car and Truck Rental, James H. Brown and Associates, Save on Foods, Servus Credit Union, Telus and Tim Hortons all did not respond to multiple media requests filed by CTV News over recent weeks.

CTV News has renewed those requests following the announced name change. 

A spokesperson for Fisherman’s Friend says the company is pleased with the change. 

“This positive outcome encourages an equal and inclusive community for all.”

TEAM NAME REVIEW

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson tweeted his support for the name change saying he supported today’s announcement.

“The team has a great legacy that’s beloved by fans, not just in Edmonton, but across Canada — and now it’ll have a name that isn’t an obstacle for new fans wanting to get in on that inspiring legacy.”

Earlier in July, Washington’s National Football League team announced it was undergoing a “thorough review” of its name. 

The team said recent events around the U.S. and feedback from the community prompted the formal review. 

NFL uniform manufacturer Nike removed the team’s gear from its online store with retailers Wal-Mart and Target soon following suit. 

FedEx, the title sponsor of the team’s stadium in Landover, Maryland, said, “We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name.”

Cleveland’s Major League Baseball club also announced it too were reviewing its team name. 

“We are committed to making a positive impact in our community and embrace our responsibility to advance social justice and equality,” the team said in a statement that came just hours after the Washington NFL team’s announcement. 

“Our organization fully recognizes our team name is among the most visible ways in which we connect with the community.”

With files from the Associated Press 

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